This month’s Editor’s Note comes from a valued guest contributor, current NFL veteran Josh Shaw.
My name is Josh Shaw, I am a 5-year NFL Veteran. I have a beautiful wife who is my high school sweetheart. We have been married for four years, and we have three beautiful children together and one on the way.
In November 2019, I was suspended from the NFL. My suspension was due to me being irresponsible and making a bad choice. I wagered on professional sports. Once the news came out that I was suspended from the league for my actions I was devastated. The job I loved had been taken from me. Although I was disappointed in myself for my actions, my suspension was a blessing in disguise. I am thankful for my suspension because it helped me realize I had a gambling addiction. Before my suspension I had no idea, I had a problem with gambling. Although my gambling stems from table games, my one mistake opened my eyes to see the bigger picture of my addiction. My suspension allowed me the time to self-evaluate and realize how big my addiction to gambling was.
I am thankful for my suspension because it helped me realize I had a gambling addiction…I had no idea.
I accepted that I had a gambling addiction, the first step I took was informing my wife. My wife and I agreed that it would be best to seek professional help from a counselor. I took the time to reach out to the NFL and they directed me to my current counselor, who has helped me tremendously in my recovery process. Counseling has really helped me get to the root of my gambling issues, realizing what I often experienced while gambling is a pleasure chemical known as dopamine. I would have never thought I would be seeking help from a counselor. In fact, as a high-level athlete we are always told to be tough, suck it up, never show a sign of weakness etc. Counseling is typically frowned upon by men. A large part of that is our pride. We tend to think we can handle issues on our own. This stereotype surrounding counseling needs to change!
I would have never thought I would be seeking help from a counselor…[athletes] tend to think we can handle issues on our own.
In addition to counseling another effective tool for me has been attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings. Here I was able to be around so many people from different walks of life. Whether past or present, at some point everyone taking part of the GA sessions has been negatively affected by gambling. It has been helpful to be around a group of people talking about their experiences with gambling. The common denominator with everyone that has overcome their struggles was to accept that there was a problem. When this happens then the healing can begin.
Gambling was always something I looked forward to. It was the most fun hobby I had. Through counseling I realized I needed to do other things I was passionate about to keep busy. In March of 2020 I began training kids, teenagers, and young adults. God has continued to open door after door for me. I recently began training two future 2021 NFL draft prospects that opted out of their senior seasons. I love the fact that I can help educate them on what steps to take to ensure they have the tools to remain successful as they become a part of the National Football League.
The Professional Athlete’s Foundation has partnered with EPIC Risk Management to bring program content and education on problem gambling, which will be tailored to meet the mental health needs of NFLPA members. The PAF and EPIC Risk Management are committed to educating our athletes and families on warning signs of problem gambling which can be difficult to spot as problem gambling is often referred to as the hidden addiction. Those with gambling disorders and addictive tendencies will receive our unyielding support.